Tag Archives: Gaston County issues

Let’s Resolve to Be Bold in 2016

SEABROOK SAYS: Some of Gaston’s leaders have reduced their leadership contributions. Some have aged out and, of course, some have died.  New leaders must emerge and you must be a part of that emergence.  Read Ash Smith’s comments and allow them to bring new energy to your community leadership.  Now that you know, what will you do?

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year on leadership in our community. Most of the discussions center on a lack of leadership development opportunities, a lack of political leadership, or a lack of engagement by particular segments of our population such as millennials or minority groups. As I gathered research for this article, I read back through the articles written for Digging Deeper over the last year and a half and it dawned on me how many great leaders our community has already identified.

Beyond the many leaders who have contributed to Digging Deeper, I have had the privilege of working with dozens of amazing leaders in the nonprofit and business communities, who are making a difference by providing services or jobs that our community desperately needs. The Gaston County Jaycees have shown me that our millennials are dedicated to improving Gaston, and I’ve heard tales of the well-organized Junior League’s work on personal development and community service. I have had thoughtful conversations with newly elected political leaders who want to make Gaston County a better place to live, work, and play.

It has become clear to me that our community doesn’t have a problem identifying leaders; we have a problem embracing boldness. I once read that boldness is the translation of values into action. It is difficult to be bold, because when we are bold as leaders it means that we are going against the grain, are trying something new, or are changing the way that things are done. The fear of having others disagree with you and the potential of failure are both strong deterrents that hold organizations and communities back from creating the change necessary to do extraordinary things.

Often times we deter our leaders from taking risks. The results of that deterrence can be devastating to the development of new ideas. When we create an environment that is hostile to change or risk, the really impactful ideas are never proposed, are met with resistance and then dropped, or suffer the worst fate of all in a slow, painful death by committee. That last one is what I have seen all too often in Gaston County. How many of you have heard a bold idea, only to see it get sent to a committee and never resurface, or take a year or longer before any action on the idea occurs?

John Maxwell writes about the “Law of the Big Mo”, or momentum, in his famous The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He says, “It takes a leader to create momentum. Followers catch it. And managers continue it once it has begun. But creating it requires someone who can motivate others…”

In Gaston County, we need our leaders to be bold and undeterred in their pursuit of big ideas. And as followers we have an obligation to help them maintain the momentum of those ideas once they are proposed. This is not only true of our political leaders, but with anyone proposing something that will create positive change in our community or organizations. There are some good examples of people doing bold things in our community: Jesse Cole and the excitement that he creates around the Grizzlies organization, Kenny Gehrig of Partners Behavioral Health and his committee’s work on developing a coordinated intake system for the homeless, Lisa Marisiddaiah and the work she is doing with the FaithHealth program over at CaroMont Health, and the Gastonia City Council as they pursue the potential of a new ballpark downtown. They, and many others, are working on bold ideas.

So today I challenge You. In 2016, resolve to do at least one bold, new thing that will benefit your organization, company, or the community. Take a risk and be willing to fail. Don’t let others kill your motivation, and motivate others to follow you. Act with boldness, and make 2016 the start of something great.

Ashley Smith works with the USAF on leadership development, continuous improvement programs, and enterprise learning projects.

 

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Is It Time For a Leadership Tune-up?

SEABROOK SAYS: Many in Gaston County will not like this. It speaks frankly, boldly and directly to all of us. Read and study it anyhow!

Why are we stalling when it comes to progress? Is it time for a leadership tune-up?

At a Gastonia Rotary Club meeting recently, a UNC professor talked about “Big Data” – the relentless electronic collection of information about consumers and their habits (if you shop at Target or Wal-Mart, they already know what you’re going to buy next). Success will follow the companies that use this Big Data to understand shopper habits today so that they can predict them in the future. The other businesses that ignore trends (more than 80% of them) will fail because — as the professor put it — “they spend too much time focused on today at the cost of preparing for tomorrow.”

Is that the problem here in our little slice of North Carolina? Do we have the kind of leadership at the city and county levels that can focus on today and tomorrow, and tie the two together with intelligent decisions that keep us moving forward? This is what we need to ask them: Are they solving real problems in ways that will stand the test of time?

In my 20 years as a Gastonia resident, I’ve seen some wonderful examples of visionary growth including the Gem of Ashley; Holy Angels; the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden; the US National Whitewater Center; our hospital; the Carolina Thread Trail; the Crowder’s Mountain Ridgeline Trail; and, most recently Artspace and the Loray Mill. But none of these fabulous achievements happened easily or quickly, and sometimes they had to fight their way to fruition. Why? We have the people who possess the creativity, passion and energy for impressive achievements, so why aren’t we doing more and at a faster clip? Why are we so far behind our neighbors in adjoining counties when it comes to creating a hip, lively place to live and work? Why won’t we embrace change?

In a Gaston Gazette article titled “’Religious Freedom act prompts questioning of our image” (April 3, 2015), executive director of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission Donny Hicks had this to say: “Regardless of how you feel (about a social issue),” he said, “when you look at it from a state perspective and think about job creation, you’re going to have to take a progressive approach or eventually there are going to be some repercussions to it.” He’s right: when we are viewed as being so desperately out of synch with modern thinking, it invites mockery and encourages new businesses to look elsewhere. We need to pull ourselves out of the rut in which we’re entrenched. Do our elected officials have the courage to envision a vibrant future and make the hard – possibly unpopular — decisions to get us there?

When I was studying for a master’s degree in leadership, one truth I discovered is that great leaders are rare. Even the very definition of the word “leadership” is a hotly debated topic among academics. But despite its elusive meaning, we all know great leadership when we see it: Winston Churchill; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Eleanor Roosevelt; Rudy Giuliani in the wake of September 11; and now Pope Francis and his courageous stand on climate change. Despite their obvious differences, all these individuals share two core qualities that partly define them as leaders: 1) they put their own interests aside in service of the greater good; and 2) they hold a vision for the future that guides each of their decisions and all of their actions. A third quality is that they inspire followship, even when the ideas they promote are new and potentially fraught.

That’s a little bit of what leadership is. Leadership has nothing to do with position. People often mistakenly identify themselves as leaders because of their title. Just because you are a CEO or a president or an elected official doesn’t mean you know how to lead. Genuine leadership is a skill that comes from a lifetime of working at it, humbly and with purpose, not overnight due to election results or a job promotion.

True leaders know that stasis leads to decay and eventually death. As we struggle to become something other than the butt of others’ jokes, we have to ask 1) do we have the right people leading us forward? 2) do they follow through on important projects? 3) are we willing to summon our own personal leadership and demand that they focus only on the issues relevant to forward-thinking growth and development?

Do we want to be a living city or a museum caught up in the past? We don’t have the advantage of “Big Data” to drive our decisions, but all we need to do is look around at what other towns and counties have done with their limited resources and ask whether we can do a better job with ours. I believe we have the people and the passion to become someplace great, but whether we do or not will come down to leadership, or the lack of it. Before you vote, ask your candidates what they’re willing to do to drive meaningful change and innovation. It’s time to put our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand creative, collaborative, visionary action focused on what will help us grow. And if they can’t stand the heat, they need to get out of the kitchen to make room for others who can.

Janice Holly Booth is the former CEO of three nationally-based non-profits, including Gastonia’s Girl Scouts of the Pioneer Council, from 1997 to 2009. She holds a master’s degree in Leadership and has written extensively on the topics of developing personal leadership, and how leaders make decisions in the face of fear.

Gaston County Can Do Anything!

Contributing writer: Bill Seabrook is the leader of Digging Deeper 

FACT 1.  Gaston County has many good things of which we all can be very proud. Make your list. It will be a long one.  Include the Schiele Museum, Crowder’s Mountain State Park, ground breaking history of minorities and women in public office, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and more.

FACT 2.  Gaston County has many needs that show a strong demand for continuous improvement by all of us. This, too, would make a long list. Many negatives appear in the areas of health, education, financial, population growth, poverty, jobs, single parenting, and more. SO WHY DOES THIS TELL US WE CAN DO ANYTHING?   WELL HERE’S WHY a. In a few short years we, with good leadership, have reduced teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is down 28% since 2010 and down a huge 13% in 2012 alone.  This did not come easy. It came with citizens, young to old, collaborating on an important common cause! b.     Since 2005-06, the student graduation rate in the Gaston County Schools has improved from 68.1% to 81.2%. c.    We have been recognized as an All American City twice. d.    With  Carolyn Niemeyer’s leadership, the Backpack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) has become a huge success in a very short period of time. BWFP understands the ongoing need for children who have little to eat on weekends.

Question: How do we expect children to be bright when they have little food in their stomach.

MY POINT: WITH INSPIRING LEADERSHIP WE CAN DO ANYTHING- WE HAVE PROVEN IT!

NOW, THREE SIMPLE QUESTIONS : 1-Will you spread Gaston County’s good news? 2-Will you connect and collaborate with others? 3- Will you do what it takes to emerge as a leader?

About Digging Deeper Gaston

About

Purpose of Digging Deeper: To equip current and potential leaders, as well as interested citizens, with useful information and encouragement that assists them in becoming effective community leaders serving the common good.

Read the Digging Deeper newsletter to hear about good things and good people in Gaston County.

How to sign up for the newsletter:
Contact Bill Seabrook:  Phone: 704-865-8460
Email: DiggingDeeperGaston@gmail.com

Would you like to be a contributing writer?
•Are you a Gaston County resident?
•Do you have high interest (or passion) about a serious issue?
•Can you express your thoughts on one page?

If interested, contact Bill Seabrook at the phone number or email listed above.

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